How-To: Teach a Woman…

You have asked and I shall answer, to the best of my ability.

This one goes out to all the men out there who are lucky enough to have a lady in their lives who is either riding her own motorcycle, is learning to ride her own, or is thinking about learning to ride. Maybe she’s your wife, your girlfriend, a family member, or just a woman who is in your social circle and for some reason or another has “adopted” you to be her mentor for her two-wheeled adventures.

These are the “rules of engagement” as I have come to understand them in my journey as a biker chick to become the best skilled rider I can possibly be. Look at these “rules” as a general guideline, as an inside peek at how us girls roll.

Biker Babes

If the woman in question is already riding her own motorcycle, there are only two points you need to be clear on:

  1. More likely, a woman will ask for advice when she wants it and ask it of whom she trusts. Do not offer uninvited advice, unless you see her doing something repeatedly that could endanger her and others. In this case, be tactful, respectful and don’t get personal. And please don’t dress her down in front of the entire crowd. Think of how you would want this to be handled. This is not the time to trash talk, poke fun or be condescending. The message will only be heard if it is delivered appropriately. Any other time, keep it to yourself. Men are protectors, they want to fix things that they deem to be broken in some form or another. You’re wired that way, but please rise above your biology and resist the urge to “fix it” or “save her from herself”. Uninvited critique on technique or style will come across as patronizing, sexist, sometimes belittling, and even disrespectful. Again, a girl will ask if she wants to know.
  2. When you overhear a woman, usually in quite an animated fashion, critiquing her own screw-ups, please don’t take this to be an open invitation for a riding lesson. We’re not exasperated or unsure of ourselves. It isn’t a sign of being helpless. When a girl goes on about how she totally blew a corner, or how she was a complete idiot for doing this, or not doing something else, she is processing. She knew she’s messed up; and that should be the key to understanding that she isn’t asking for help or trying to elicit your advice on the sly, but rather is engaging in an “after-action review”, to relive an event so she can do better next time. She is aware of her boundaries and where her skill development needs further attention. She’s got it under control and is handling her affairs.

Biker Babes in Training

If the woman is a beginning rider or is thinking about learning to ride a motorcycle, here is a list of things to keep in mind to understand how our learning experiences differ from that of the men, and how best to deal with gender-specific issues that may not even cross your mind as it is a non-issue for most guys.

  1. If she has asked you to teach her how to ride and you have agreed, you should sit down first and talk about the expectations you have of each other. Make your own ground rules to ensure a pleasant and fun experience, for both student and teacher.
  2. Implore her to take a basic riding course either before or after you begin teaching her. I cannot overemphasize the importance of formal practical training. She can learn the fundamentals of motorcycle operation in a safe and controlled environment with a relaxed and non-threatening atmosphere. A foundation which I personally found to be of huge benefit to my further education and skill training. Two of the most common courses are the Basic RiderCourse offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and the Rider’s Edge Course offered by a lot of Harley Davidson dealers. Taking a riding course will also help those women who are unsure, to figure out if riding a motorcycle is something they would enjoy, before they take the plunge and buy a motorcycle, which is a sort-of big deal for a lot of us financially.
  3. If at all possible, hook her up with an experienced female rider who rides the same type of motorcycle that she does. Women riders understand the obstacles a girl faces when first starting out and are for the most part very supportive of each other and a lot of women will feel more comfortable asking certain questions of another female rider.
  4. Be patient and let her take each lesson at her own pace. A woman’s learning curve differs from that of a man’s. Generally speaking, a woman will learn at a slower pace, but will peak their skill set above that of the average man. I’m not saying this to be sexist, it has to do with how most of us girls approach new experiences and how we work through problems and our anxieties. We place more emphasis on education and prevention to keep us out of potential trouble. Men are more apt to wing it and learn as they go. “One down, five up? Ok, see ya.” That’s how my husband learned to ride; that was the question-statement he posed to the dude he bought his first bike from, gave him the cash and rode off into the sunset.
  5. Do not pressure her about her speed. If you constantly nag her about “being slow” you may inadvertently destroy the confidence she is building in herself and her bike’s capabilities and turn it into frustration. In other words, don’t push her too far too fast. Girls don’t have the need to keep up with their buddies for worry of embarrassing themselves or being called slow; for the most part. Her speed will pick up on its own as her skills mature and her confidence increases.
  6. Don’t try and talk her into something or out of something. Ride your own ride, let her do the same.
  7. Let her buy her own ride. Period. She is the one who has to ride it, not you. Give her pointers, if she asks for your opinion, but give them objectively and without putting a spin on things. Also implore her to do her own research. The more she knows about motorcycle basics, the better the position she’ll be in to make an informed decision.
  8. Don’t let her wimp out. This is a toughie, though. When we have a bad experience and we aren’t reliant on our motorcycle for daily transportation, we have the option to take the Chicken Exit rather than working through it and conquering our fear. This can manifest itself in several ways, and not necessarily where you would think. That is what makes this one so difficult to pinpoint, even to ourselves. Be supportive, listen, and gently encourage her to keep on trying. How do you do this? That is something I cannot answer. It’s probably easier for another female rider to accomplish, because girls are more apt to say “if she can do it, so can I” when she can’t find the motivation on her own. Left to her own devices, a woman usually will either work through her discomfort and keep pushing herself in an effort to overcome the obstacle in her path or she will eventually quit. It all depends on how much importance she places on conquering the perceived setback. Not all women will become avid motorcyclists, some will find that it’s not for them after all and some will turn it into a lifestyle and sell their cars. Some will be content with riding pillion and others won’t stop until they have their racing license and have proven to themselves that they can do it. Again, whatever she decides, it is not a failure on her part or yours as her mentor.
  9. Realize that women riders face a slightly different set of difficulties when learning to ride a motorcycle. Things most men find a non-issue and have never really given it much thought. Things such as: seat height, rider position, weight of the motorcycle, upper body strength, physical endurance, inseam, body shape, etc. These all have an impact to one degree or another of how we approach riding and the kind of bikes we find “agreeable” to us when we first start out. Even finding properly fitting motorcycle gear can be a real chore for girls.
  10. And last, but not least, don’t ever append “…for a girl” at the end of a statement; unless you want to carry your balls home in a jar.

Yamaha: 5 – Miss Busa: 0

This is not fun anymore. In retrospect this hasn’t been fun in quite a while.

I want to ride these things as fast as I dare, not try and put them together and figure out what the previous owner(s) had done (or fucked up) so I can get an engineering degree online and learn to fix it. In the process I found out the following: I can teach myself mechanics if I can start from a baseline. I put a crashed S1000RR back together without this much fuss. Given, it took me 13 weeks and approximately $1300 in parts and tools, but it was a journey that was much more gratifying and taught me a lot about how motorcycles actually work. A road well traveled and worth it.

However, wrenching on the R1 feels like putting together a puzzle. I hate puzzles! You would have to put me on some serious medication for me to enjoy putting together some crappy picture printed on cardboard pieces.

Who in the world could enjoy sitting down to a 5000-piece puzzle and put it together when you a.) don’t have the box anymore with the picture on it, but you vaguely remember what it looked like; and b.) there are some puzzle pieces, from another 5000-piece puzzle, that don’t belong, but got mixed into the pile, but you don’t know that (yet).

I’m selling the R1.

I HAVE HAD IT!

That is all.

I have reached the point where the benefit does not outweigh the work put in and the frustrations encountered along the way.

I admit defeat. Shamefully, I throw in the towel, pack it up, and go home. I want to go back to paying somebody to do this shit for me, and I can only do that by returning to my roots: being a high-mileage street rider and combat commuter, who (maybe) goes to the occasional track day to keep most of the shenanigans off the street in an attempt to avoid going to jail for free body-cavity searches and crappy food.

This is the first time I have ever let an inanimate object (or a massive collection of them) beat me. My IQ will recover… eventually. Time heals most wounds. In the meantime I just allow myself to feel stupid as hell.

I apologize to Mr. Slow who has leaped tall buildings in a single bound to make it possible for me to own a dedicated race bike and has been nothing but supportive along the way. He has given up so much to enable me to chase some arbitrary dream I started having for reasons I still don’t quite comprehend.

It’s time for me to wake up and rejoin reality. I really should steal his license plate, move the electrical tape dot over one character and slap it on my bike. Although, my man would look pretty silly cruising down the road with “Rocket Girl” hanging off his tail.

Today, I am the MRS.LOW to his MR.SLOW because I feel painfully ungrateful by giving up.

Mr. Slow is actually faster than me, or could be, if he ever decided to trade his hard bags for knee pucks. But he is Mr. Slow because that’s his riding philosophy rather than a reflection upon his skill set. And that is my confession.

~*~

There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you’ll never see the end of the road
While you’re traveling with me

Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House

Wired For Safety: Because if the stuff falls off…

…we’re not going to have a good time.

I don’t know what it is about safety wiring, but the task seems overwhelming and insurmountable and a big pain in the backside when you think about it; not to mention it is confusing when you first are faced with a list of stuff to secure properly to pass Tech at a track. I’ve been procrastinating this safety wiring project for the better of six months and I finally decided to tackle the subject in small increments.

Let’s start off with the important stuff:

The Tools of the Trade

  • Safety wire pliers: This is a specialty tool that is technically not necessary, since you could clip the wire to size with wire cutters and twist the stuff with a pair of needle nose pliers. Technically. Do yourself a favor and buy one of these puppies! You’ll thank me later. No, seriously! Miss Busa is making these mandatory!
  • Safety wire: The thickest wire I am using is 0.041″ T-304 stainless steel marine-grade lock wire, which is a perfect match for those 1/16″ drill bits. However, I use various thicknesses for different applications. I also use 0.032″-diameter and 0.02″-diameter wire. The skinnier the wire, the easier it is to work with, but due to its lesser tensile strength, it’s more likely to break. I like to use the thick stuff for places that have to be wired and are very unlikely to have to be undone. A medium-thickness wire is a pretty good all-around choice and I use it for most of everything that needs to be wired up. The skinny wire is great for wiring up such things as grips and rearset components.
  • Racing safety pins: Completely optional, but they make life at the track so much easier. I like to use these in places where the wiring has to be undone and redone quite often, such as the oil fill cap, the radiator cap, the oil filter, the rear axle nut. Pay attention to the rulebook though, you may not be able to use these in certain places; the oil drain plug would be a common exception to their allowed use.
  • Tab washers aka safety wire washers: Also completely optional, but these make things much more enjoyable. Also keep some of these in your tool box, you’ll never know when some extra-anal white-gloved tech inspector wants you to secure this or that and now you’re hard pressed to fix the problem since your drill is at home, no anchor point is within reach and your day could have just went down the tubes if it weren’t for these little lifesavers. 🙂 I like to use them where points of attachments are difficult or too distant to be feasible. You use them like a washer, torque the fastener down onto them, then use pliers to bend the tabs up around the bolt’s head. You can then secure your safety wire to the tab that has the hole in it. Obviously, you cannot use them as anchor points for safety wiring the exact same bolt you are attaching them to. That would be silly.
Tools for Safety Wiring

Tools to safety wire your bike: safety wire pliers, safety wire, tab washers (aka safety wire washers), and racing safety pins.

  • Safety wire drilling jig: This is another specialty tool and a must-have item if you do not have a drill press and have to manually drill the holes into the bolt heads. Miss Busa is making this a mandatory purchase as well! No whining. Just order the jig set when you order the pliers and the safety wire.
Safety Wiring Drill Jig

The safety wiring drill jig is a must-have tool if you do not have a drill press.

  • QUALITY 1/16″ drill bits. I mean it. Buy junk and they’ll break or won’t get you all the way through to the other side before they turn dull and useless! I’ve bought some DeWalt 1/16″ Split Point Cobalt drill bits which are claimed to have “maximum life in metal” and are rumored to “start on contact”. I can attest to both of these statements being fairly accurate so far.
Say NO! to cheap drill bits!

Friends don't let friends buy cheap drill bits! Just because it says "titanium" on the package...

  • Automatic (spring-loaded) punch:  Mine was broken, so I had to make do without; which isn’t a big deal IF you bought the aforementioned QUALITY drill bits. Tell me you didn’t buy junk!  This is an optional item, unless you didn’t listen and bought a ten-pack of “titanium nitrate” bits for $1.98, then it becomes mandatory. This tool is used to make a little indentation for your drill bit to sit in to get you started and to help prevent the bit walking all over the place while you attempt to do so.
  • Drill: I have some housewife-grade cheapie by Black & Decker. Variable speed, quick-release chuck, reversible. It does me just fine with those DeWalt drill bits.
  • Vise: You either have to have one of these or try and talk your buddy into holding the piece for you while you come at them with the drill. 😉 I use a little suction cup mounted articulated hobby vise I got at Harbor Freight. I have no garage or workshop, so this little guy is prefect for the occasional Tool Time session.
  • If you’ve got the cash to burn and the workshop to go with it, you might want to forgo the whole vise-and-drill thing and go out and get yourself a decent drill press. Way more accurate and way quicker, but overkill if all you’ll be needing it for is drilling a few holes into bolt heads to stick some wire through. Have a friend who has one? Pack your crap, hop on your bike and go see him. Don’t forget the pizza and the beer.
  • Cutting oil: If you’re trying to find “cutting oil” you’ll run yourself nutters. Some people use WD-40 to cool down their bits, others use machine oil, or multi-purpose 3-in-1 oil. You get the picture. You’ll need something to keep the drill bit from overheating and to ease its passage through some of the tougher stuff you’ll ever find yourself drilling holes through. If the bit gets too hot, it’ll break.
  • Safety glasses: This goes without saying. A scratched eyeball hurts like hell and you can’t ride motorcycles when you’re half-blind. Put ’em on!
Tools for Safety Wire Hole Drilling

Tools for drilling safety wire holes: drill, 1/16" drill bits, cutting oil, drill jig, automatic punch (no pictured), cotton swabs, paper towels, rotary tool, and safety glasses.

Let the Fun Commence

Today, I’m doing caps and calipers. Since I have a short attention span and find learning how to safety wire almost as coma-inducing as teaching myself suspension tuning, I can only handle this mess in short spurts. I already have my axles, oil filter, and oil drain plug done. I will have to write them up later. Fear not, as this comes together I will re-organize these posts and work them into a proper how-to. This is really just something to get you started, to give you time to gather up all the tools you’ll need and give you a general idea of what is coming. I will take the mystery out of this subject yet. Because this is one of these things: You’re totally lost when you see the list of junk in the rulebook you have to properly secure, some of it makes sense. Some of it is vaguely familiar and some of it has you drooling form the corner of the mouth, mumbling incoherently. “Oil gallery plugs” anybody? As luck would have it, those beyotches may be secured with RTV silicone; a girl can do that laying on her back in two minutes flat. 😉

  • Always take the parts you need to drill off the bike. Before taking them off, a lot of people like to mark their fasteners when they are properly torqued, so they know where to drill the holes for the wire. Plan how you are going to wire up the fasteners that you are taking off. Remember that safety wiring has to tighten one bolt as another tries to come loose, so the tension should always be to the right of each fastener, which will route the twisted safety wire in an s-shape between them once two bolts are wired together. Plan on drilling your holes accordingly. Some people drill more than one set of holes for just that reason, but I bet those are the same peeps who also own one of those snazzy drill presses. (I will post pictures of every secured bolt on my bike when I’m done. A pic is worth a million words and a hundred google searches!)
  • Secure the part in your vise. Make sure you don’t bend or break anything. Always wrap your part up in a shop towel or use soft vise pads to avoid damaging anything. That’s one reason I decided to thread the bolt into the drill jig, even though my vise has soft rubber-capped jaws. That’s not exactly how you’re supposed to use the thing, or is it?!?
Closeup of Brake Caliper Bolt (Drilled)

I used the safety wire drill jig to hold the bolt in the vise for drilling to prevent potential damage to the bolt's threads.

  • Mark your fastener with your automatic punch, if you have one.
  • Put a drop of oil on the drill bit and on the bolt.
  • Carefully start drilling, making sure that your drill bit stays put and doesn’t wander around. With the DeWalt bits I mentioned earlier this is not a problem, they stay put, even without a punch to mark the spot. Once you have the hole started, speed up the drill and add a little bit of pressure, not too much, though, if you bend the bit you’ll break it. Let the bit do the work for you. Be patient. You’ll see metal shavings piling up, I prefer to clean those out with cotton swabs, wipe the drill bit off and add some more oil, then I resume drilling. Each bolt took me about 5-6 minutes to drill. I didn’t break a single bit either. 🙂 Remember those “titanium” cheapies? Yeah, I tried those first. After 10 minutes of nothing much happening, I finally admitted defeat and changed to the DeWalt’s. A world of difference! The no-name bits are going to have to be re-dedicated to drilling holes into wood or styrofoam… they suck!
  • I decided to drill straight through the bolt heads, using the first hole as a guide to start the second hole. I thought that this may be a mistake and would make me break a bit, but it worked like a dream. The holes are nice and clean and perfectly aligned, which will make wiring these up a cinch, no matter where they end up in relation to each other. And I did a way better job than the ex-BMW dealer did on my axle nut, if I dare say so myself.
Closeup of drilled safety wire hole

I decided to drill the hole straight across to make it easier to wire the two bolts together later.

  • The caps were easy. I decided to drill the radiator cap from the back side, so in case the bit slipped I wouldn’t scratch up the “pretty side”. That was probably a mistake, since I had to use my Dremel to deburr the side the drill exited, which is probably going to cause it to rust. We shall see. If I had to do it over, I’d drill the holes front to back. I drilled both sides of the cap because I couldn’t remember which was the one I had decided to drill. Should have marked it, but thought I wouldn’t forget. I put the racing safety pin on the side that I’m betting on. We shall see if I didn’t drill that extra hole for nothing.
  • The oil fill cap is plastic and was done in a few seconds. It took me longer to put the part in the vise. I decided to drill both sides, because the cap could end up at a number of different angles in relationship to the safety wire’s anchor point.
Parts Drilled

Parts that I've drilled today: the four front brake caliper bolts, oil fill cap and coolant fill cap